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Ocean County Legislators Opposing Plan to Open Atlantic Ocean to Drilling

The north jetty of Barnegat Inlet at Island Beach State Park. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The north jetty of Barnegat Inlet at Island Beach State Park. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Assemblyman Greg McGuckin and state Sen. James Holzapfel (both R-Ocean) are both sponsoring resolutions in their chambers of the state legislature expressing opposition to the Obama administration’s plan to open the Atlantic coast to oil drilling.

While the administration’s plan does not include drilling off New Jersey, it would be allowed off the Virginia coast, close enough to pose a serious threat to the environment should a spill occur, environmentalists have said.

“A proposal such as this would have devastating effects on New Jersey especially if an oil spill were to occur off our waters,” McGuckin said in a statement. “The economy relies heavily on our fishing and shipping industries as well as the billions of dollars generated each year from tourism. The impact of a single oil spill would permanently damage the ocean’s ecosystem and cause economic harm to all states boarding the Atlantic Ocean.”

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Under a plan proposed last month by the Department of the Interior, offshore drilling leases would be open from 2017 to 2022 between Virginia and Georgia. The same proposal would ban drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in Alaska. The announcement of plan faced immediate opposition by New Jersey lawmakers and environmental advocates. Earlier this month, the New York Times came out against east coast drilling in an editorial, referencing the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to argue that “the benefits of drilling do not outweigh the threat to local economies, public health and the environment when an inevitable spill occurs.”

“The federal government must take into account the events of the past such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which flooded the Gulf of Mexico with five million barrels of oil, permanently damaging the ocean’s ecosystem,” McGuckin said. “Drilling for oil and natural gas off our shore, despite the potential in the reserves, is not worth the risk.”

McGuckin’s resolution has been introduced in the state Assembly; Holzapfel’s resolution will be introduced in the Senate next week, a spokeswoman for the legislators said.